Transdisciplinary environmental research: trial and evaluation. Final report

Kiatkoski Kim, Milena, Douglas, Michael, Pannell, David, Setterfield, Samantha, Hill, Rosemary, Jackson, Sue, Alvarez-Romero, Jorge, Laborde, Sarah, Beesley, Leah, and Canham, Caroline (2021) Transdisciplinary environmental research: trial and evaluation. Final report. Report. Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub, Perth, WA, Australia.

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A group of four NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub projects operating in the Fitzroy River catchment (Western Australia) used a transdisciplinary (participatory, interdisciplinary and outcomes-focused) approach by having water resource management as a common theme. The projects partly integrated their research processes and outputs and developed strong links with research users. The transdisciplinary project team included researchers from four projects, who integrated their research processes and outputs in pairs: 1.3.3 (Environmental water requirements) and 1.5 (Indigenous water requirements); 1.6 (Multi-objective planning) and 5.4 (Showing and sharing knowledge).

Project 6.2 (this research) aimed to support the development of a transdisciplinary research (TDR) approach in the Fitzroy catchment and contribute to the emerging body of knowledge on transdisciplinarity more broadly. We achieved that aim by conducting a formative evaluation (i.e. during project implementation) of the collaboration between the four projects above. This involved: (1) the development of the Theory of Change of this collaboration, (2) a literature review, (3) interviews of research users, and (4) researchers’ reflection on the previous steps.

The team identified different research impacts occurring because of people’s participation in, or access to the outputs of research. Research impacts, on both researchers and research users, included:

• learning and increased understanding of scientific information

• development of new skills or social learning (i.e. learning from working together with other stakeholders)

• empowerment (e.g. meeting and deliberating with peers regarding collective action because of the projects)

• enhancing communication with other groups and a better understanding of their perspectives

• creating new contacts (e.g. meeting new people) and strengthening existing relationships.

Two projects (Environmental water requirements and Indigenous water requirements) have directly contributed to the Fitzroy catchment water allocation plan and to stakeholders’ submissions on the draft water plan consultation (i.e. Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation [DWER] Discussion Paper). The Multi-objective planning and Showing and sharing knowledge projects contributed with less tangible outcomes such as enhancing communication, and strengthening relationships and Indigenous institutions.

Researchers identified processes or outputs that contributed positively to knowledge uptake by research users, for example, the use of videos and interactive maps, which can help users such as Traditional Owners to assimilate and use project information. They also identified things that hindered the use of project outcomes, such as confusion between the roles of research and government planning, and the limited capacity of some organisations to use research outputs.

Item ID: 70801
Item Type: Report (Report)
ISBN: 978-1-925800-96-8
Keywords: Environmental Management; Participatory planning; Participatory research; Knowledge co-production; Knowledge coproduction; Stakeholder engagement; Stakeholder participation; Water; Transdisciplinary research; Theory of Change
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Copyright Information: Transdisciplinary environmental research: Trial and evaluation is licensed by the University of Western Australia for use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Australia licence. For licence conditions see
Funders: National Environmental Science Programme (NESP), James Cook University (JCU), The University of Western Australia, Griffith University
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2022 02:20
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410404 Environmental management @ 50%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410406 Natural resource management @ 30%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 20%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1803 Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management > 180301 Assessment and management of freshwater ecosystems @ 50%
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1902 Environmental policy, legislation and standards > 190211 Water policy (incl. water allocation) @ 30%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1803 Fresh, ground and surface water systems and management > 180308 Surface water quantification, allocation and impact of depletion @ 20%
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